Tucked into the lower fringes of the NSW Hunter Valley wine region, the 20th Century – let alone the 21st – barely left a mark on Wollombi. Cars should be disallowed here. All should arrive by horse, hitch ’em out front of the tavern or general store and waltz inside. Wollombi (population 300) makes our Top 100 for two fundamental reasons: unadulterated old-world charm, and the 100 percent quirk factor of the triple alliteration-scoring Dr Jurd’s Jungle Juice. A strange alcoholic concoction created from a WWII elixir, an old bush remedy and the crazed experimental blends of local legend Dr Mel Jurd, like it or hate it, you simply have to try this stuff.
Its home is the Wollombi Tavern, where a low-pitched corrugated roof, wraparound verandah and roughly hewn timber aesthetic make for a classic Aussie boozer. Around town, stone and timber beauty abounds. There’s the old courthouse with a local history museum, original products on display in the early colonial general store, ancient buildings doubling as tasty cafes, art exhibits in the town’s cultural centre and colourful locals regularly engaged in impressive bouts of street-side banter. In summer, the surrounding vineyards are filled with the often surreal works of Sculpture in the Vineyards.
Where? // Wollombi Valley is on the southwestern periphery of the NSW Hunter Valley region, around 140km (2hrs) north of Sydney and 80km (1hr 40mins) west of Newcastle.
Did you know? // Wollombi (literally, “meeting of the waters”) was of great significance to local Aboriginals. A ceremonial meeting place overshadowed by Mt Yengo, it played a central role in the Dreamtime creation story. More than 300 cave paintings and rock carvings stand as mute reminders of this fascinating Indigenous heritage.
Return to: the 100 Best Towns in Australia